Jul 27

Chicken soup for the soul: Ethier lifts Dodgers, 2-0


Gregory Bull/APAndre Ethier breaks a scoreless tie in the seventh inning with a two-run, pinch-hit single.

Too sick to start Tuesday’s game in San Diego, Andre Ethier made the Padres feel ill in their showdown with the Dodgers.

Ethier, a late scratch from the starting lineup with the flu, came off the bench in the seventh inning to deliver a two-run single – all the medicine the Dodgers needed to come away with a 2-0 victory.

Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland each pitched shutout ball through six innings, though both starting pitchers had one inning of major tightrope-walking in that time. In the bottom of the fourth, three singles loaded the bases before Billingsley retired the next three batters on a groundout, popout and strikeout. In the top of the sixth, with runners on first and second, Garland nabbed Rafael Furcal, Xavier Paul and Matt Kemp on 3-2 pitches.

But the pivotal moment came in the seventh inning, when Blake DeWitt (on an 0-2 pitch) and Garret Anderson singled with two out. Padres manager Bud Black forced the Dodgers hand, walking Russell Martin (1 for 2) intentionally. That caused Joe Torre to have the flu-stricken Ethier pinch-hit for Billingsley, even though the righty had thrown only 84 pitches. (Billingsley lowered his ERA to 4.00 on the season by extending his scoreless inning string to 15 tonight – remarkably, Dodger starting pitchers have allowed one earned run in their past 43 innings.)

It was an echo of Friday’s game, when Torre pinch-hit for Vicente Padilla despite a low pitch count. But this time, with Garland left in to pitch despite lefty Joe Thatcher warming in the bullpen, Ethier grounded a 1-1 pitch hard, just past a diving Everth Cabrera, driving home the first two runs of the game.

That put the game in the hands of the Dodger bullpen, starting with Hong-Chih Kuo. Despite being interrupted by a single and a Casey Blake error, Kuo struck out the side. After throwing 20 pitches that inning, Kuo came out in the eighth to face Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez and struck him out on three pitches. He faced Chase Headley, and struck him out on three pitches. He threw two more strikes to Yorvit Torrealba before finally missing, and then gave up a single. On his season-high 34th pitch, Kuo got Will Venable to ground out, taking the game to the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jonathan Broxton breezed through the first two hitters on three pitches. That brought up his nemesis, Matt Stairs, with a .597 OPS this season. Broxton missed with his first three pitches, but came back to strike Stairs out and bounce off the mound with the save.

First step. The Dodgers were held to two runs or less for the eight time in 12 games since the All-Star break, but they closed their gap in the National League West to five games. Los Angeles remained 2 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the NL wild card.

Jul 25

Kershaw, Jansen shut down Mets, 1-0


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesKenley Jansen has struck out four of the first six hitters he has faced in the majors.

Old man Kenley Jansen, six months older than Clayton Kershaw but about a dozen or more pitching years younger, struck out two batters in the ninth to preserve a 1-0 victory for Kershaw and the Dodgers over the Mets today.

“It’s just crazy,” said Jansen, who made his pitching debut in the minors last July, on the Prime Ticket postgame interview. “It’s just a dream come true.”

After Kershaw threw eight shutout innings (eight baserunners, three strikeouts), the Dodgers pushed across the only run when a Russell Martin double scored a hustling Casey Blake all the way from first base in the bottom of the eighth. Blake, who had singled, also had a diving catch in the sixth inning to save a hit and likely a run with two out and a runner on second in the top of the sixth.

Allowing Jonathan Broxton to rest after the Dodger closer went two innings Saturday, Jansen needed 15 pitches for his second scoreless inning in as many days. Kershaw said after the game to Prime Ticket that Jansen was the first catcher he threw to in the minor leagues.

“It’s amazing how life changes,” Jansen said. “I’m just having fun and at the same time, focused.”

Jul 24

Loney walks it off in 13th, 3-2


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp looks to win the Kendry Who? Award with his takedown of James Loney after Loney’s walkoff homer gave the Dodgers a 3-2 victory over the Mets today in 13 innings. The 21st Dodger used in the game, George Sherrill, pitched a 1-2-3 inning for the victory. Carlos Monasterios pitched five shutout innings. and then after James McDonald disappointed in a two-run sixth, Kenley Jansen’s two-strikeout major-league debut kicked off seven consecutive game-saving scoreless (and hitless) innings of relief for Los Angeles.
Jul 24

Torre concedes error in 6-1 loss

Joe Torre told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that he made a mistake Friday having Ronnie Beliiard pinch-hit with two out in the bottom of the seventh for Vicente Padilla, who had allowed one run on 77 pitches through seven innings.

If the Dodgers had been scoring more, Torre wouldn’t have been faced with that choice. But with rare exceptions like Bizarro Tim Lincecum night, the Dodger offense hasn’t been doing much lately, and facing the Mets’ Johan Santana didn’t help.

Jeff Weaver compounded Torre’s ill-fated decision. Weaver, who had walked seven batters in his first 28 games this season (through the end of June) and never more than one in a game, walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth – giving him eight walks in 7 2/3 innings in July.

It all went downhill from there.

* * *

Andre Ethier is in a 1-for-24 slump, though he has walked seven times and homered. His batting average (.302), on-base percentage (.367) are at their lowest marks since the second game of the season.

* * *

John Ely had his Friday start for Albuquerque was postponed. Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner said Ely was struck by a batting practice ball.

* * *

Here’s a preview of my brother’s latest producing effort, “Young Justice,” which will premiere on Cartoon Network next year with 26 episodes. I have written two and will be writing two more.

Jul 22

Back-to-back: 2-0, 2-0

Wednesday it was Chad Billingsley and Casey Blake; tonight it was Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Kemp – with a Hong-Chih Kuo cherry on top, and perhaps that’s the biggest news of the evening.

After pitching two innings Tuesday and warming up Wednesday, Kuo pitched the ninth inning tonight for the save – further suggesting that the protective gloves have come off the precious reliever. It might not be quite accurate to say the Dodgers are going for broke, but it’s definitely a different mentality than we’ve seen for the past year and a half. Actually, maybe it is accurate to say they’re going for broke, figuratively if not literally.

Earlier today, Joe Torre talked about the bullpen situation with Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Before signing off this short post, a quick tip of the cap not only to Kuroda for his eight standout shutout innings and Kemp for his RBI double and solo homer, but to Russell Martin, who threw out two runners stealing tonight in a tight game.

* * *

Bill Shaikin of the Times has some new and interesting Dodger attendance analysis. Check it out.

Jul 21

What the doctor, therapist and grief counselor ordered: Billingsley shuts out Giants


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley

Whew – there it is.

With the Dodgers reeling, Chad Billingsley unfurled his second career shutout and third career complete game, scattering seven baserunners, and the Dodgers defeated the Giants, 2-0.

Billingsley struck out only three batters, but got 16 groundouts as the Giants went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. He threw 125 pitches, the most by a Dodger pitcher since Jeff Weaver threw 126 on September 27, 2005.

The Dodgers hadn’t had a complete game since Eric Stults shut out San Francisco on May 9, 2009. Before that, the last Dodger complete game was a Billingsley shutout of the Giants on July 30, 2008.

It’s a bit odd that Billingsley has only three strikeouts in his past two starts (after 17 in the two before that), but we’ll ponder that another day.

Casey Blake homered in the second inning and singled home a run in the eighth to give Billingsley and the Dodgers the runs they needed.

* * *

Jay Gibbons, who some of us expected to be in a Dodger uniform tonight, hit two of six Albuquerque home runs in a 14-5 victory at Nashville.

Jul 20

Macho men fall down: Dodgers collapse, 7-5


Gus Ruelas/APUmpire Adrian Johnson walks alongside Matt Kemp after the Dodger outfielder was hit by a Tim Lincecum pitch in the fifth inning.

Where to begin?

Tim Lincecum getting hammered, allowing three runs in the first inning and two more in the third? Giving up a homer to Andre Ethier and 11 baserunners in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two?

Xavier Paul getting two runs, two doubles, a single and an RBI – and still nearly costing the Dodgers the game with a dropped fly ball?

Clayton Kershaw cruising, retiring 11 in a row at one point, in his first career matchup with Lincecum?

No, we can’t start there.

In the most memorable game of a season the Dodgers are desperately hoping won’t be forgettable, Lincecum-Kershaw I devolved into a B-grade beanball war and D-grade display of intelligence, one that showed the Dodgers’ fighting spirit but also highlighted their shortsightedness – and even stupidity.

If you thought the collapse against the Yankees was a nightmare, if Sunday’s meltdown at St. Louis brought you to your knees, those games have nothing on tonight’s 7-5 loss.

The unraveling took root in the fifth inning, with the Dodgers leading 5-1, when Lincecum, who had hit one batter with a pitch this year, threw consecutive knockdown pitches at Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, the second one hitting him. Kemp was angry, but there was no incident. Nevertheless, home plate umpire Adrian Johnson issued a warning to both benches that no other beanball shenanigans would be tolerated. This infuriated Dodger coach Bob Schaefer (the Dodger coach that Kemp reportedly clashed with last month), who had lots of words with Johnson.

Lincecum left the game one batter later. In top of the sixth, Kershaw gave up three hits and three runs, two of them unearned because Paul dropped a long fly ball by San Francisco’s Pat Burrell (one, admittedly, that looked at first like it might leave the park). In the bottom of the inning, Giants reliever Denny Bautista knocked Russell Martin down with a pitch, and Schaefer went ballistic, drawing an ejection from Johnson.

Gus Ruelas/AP
Joe Torre and Adrian Johnson go through the motions and emotions after Clayton Kershaw’s ejection.

Kershaw was the next batter, which was a bit surprising considering his rough top of the sixth and the fact that he had thrown 103 pitches. What was really bizarre, however, was that the fragile Hong-Chih Kuo was warming up in the bullpen while Kershaw was batting.

Soon, we found out why.

Kershaw came out in the top of the seventh and with his first pitch, drilled Aaron Rowand of the Giants. Johnson immediately ejected Kershaw, who might also draw a suspension. And while some might have thought it improbable that the Dodgers would intentionally put the tying run on base in a game they so wanted to win, it seems clear that they did.

Further explaining what happened, a Twitter user pointed out that pinch-hitter Garret Anderson was the on-deck hitter when Martin was knocked down. After Schaefer was ejected, Anderson sat down, and Kershaw remained in the game to do his dirty work.

Kershaw scored points with everyone who thinks that pride depends on revenge, who thinks that all of the Dodgers’ problems stem from Chad Billingsley not knocking down a Phillie two years ago, but in the meantime, the action risked putting the Dodgers in the very humbling position of losing a game that was very much worth winning. Rowand made it all the way to third base with two outs, before Kuo got Freddie Sanchez on a broken-bat liner to end the inning.

So the extra baserunner didn’t cost the Dodgers the game. But ultimately, we were still reminded that pride doesn’t mean victories.

Jonathan Broxton, forced into the game after Kuo threw two innings, allowed a 60-foot infield single to start the ninth, then issued an ill-advised walk to Edgar Renteria. Rowand sacrificed, and the Dodgers decided to have Broxton walk Aubrey Huff intentionally to load the bases with one out.

And then – and this is saying something – the most bizarre thing happened.

Joe Torre’s heir apparent, Don Mattingly, helming the Dodgers because Torre was automatically ejected once his pitcher hit a batter after the benches were warned, visited the mound to have a conference with Broxton and the infield. He finished, walked off the mound, and then James Loney called out a question to him. Mattingly turned and took three steps back toward Loney – a step that put both Mattingly’s feet onto the mound. Giants manager Bruce Bochy immediately came out to contend that this constituted two trips to the mound, and successfully got Broxton removed from the game.

And thus, we had trying to save the game, with almost no warmup, one George Friderich Sherrill.

Irony was not in supply. Sherrill did not defy expectations. His second pitch was hit for a two-run double, giving San Francisco its first lead of the game. Travis Schlichting came in, and one out later, allowed a single for another run.

Forced to rally for the first time tonight, the Dodgers came out in the bottom of the ninth against Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who no doubt entered the game with one eye on Ethier in the dugout, due up fourth in the inning. Jamey Carroll was thrown out by a hair at first base. The ever-lovin’ Rafael Furcal then lined one to left field, sliding into second base with a close double. Ronnie Belliard, pinch-hitting for Paul against the lefty, struck out feebly.

And for the second night in a row with the game on the line, Affeldt got Ethier, this time ending the contest with a strikeout.

And so yes, the Dodgers can pat themselves on the back, knowing that they were man enough to fight back against the Giants. But when they’re done with that, their next move will be to scratch their heads, wondering why that manliness feels so hollow.

It’s because it’s not about who’s mas macho. It’s about who has scored the most runs at the end of the day. Anyone who planned to point to this tough-guy act and say this was the key to the Dodgers’ season was just dreaming.

Update: Some postgame quotes from Torre …

“(Mattingly) didn’t really know where he was. He thought he was still on the mound when James called him back.

“They didn’t look upon (the brushback of Martin) as on purpose. It’s a very gray area that seems to have some flaws in it, and I don’t know how you fix it.

“I think it’s more just (Broxton) is out of sync right now, more so than anything physical to worry about. He’s pretty honest with Honeycutt as far as when he feels good.

“We’ve had some strange things happen. This is a test, and you have to bounce back and reestablish what kind of club you are.”

Update 2: Quotes from Mattingly …

“I turned to walk away, and James said something and I just kind of turned around. He asked me the depth that I wanted him, didn’t even realize that I was off the dirt, and obviously I was.

“I kind of had a little bit of a feeling, because Adrian (Johnson) was yelling, ‘No no no, you can’t go back!’ as I turned to talk to James, so I had a little bit of a feeling at that point.

“I’m aware of the rule, but again felt I had just kind of turned and turned back around, but obviously I guess I didn’t.

“That’s what I asked (crew chief) Tim McClelland. I said, ‘Can he warm up?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I won’t do that to him. I’m not gonna take a chance on letting a guy get hurt. So at that point (I’m) talking to (pitching coach Rick Honeycutt), not realizing how many throws he’s getting.

“I’m not quite sure of (why they cut Sherrill off at eight warmup tosses). Again, Honey and I talked, and pretty much turned around and George is ready to go, so I figure he’s ready to go. At that point I didn’t realize they cut him off at eight.”

Jul 19

File another one under defeat for Dodgers, 5-2


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesBuster Posey is safe at home with San Francisco’s second run of the game.

Madison Bumgarner has the same last name that James Garner was born with, which is enough to make me wish that Jim Rockford would solve the Dodgers’ criminal woes. Or that at least there might be an appearance by an angel.

Instead, the Dodgers dropped their fifth straight game, 5-2 to San Francisco. The Dodgers fell six games behind San Diego in the National League West and 2 1/2 behind Cincinnati for the NL wild card.

In his first major-league appearance of 2010, James McDonald looked good in a 1-2-3 first inning and escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam of his own creation in the second inning. But then came two runs with two out in the third, and then more painfully, a two-run homer by No. 8 hitter Nate Schierholtz in the fourth that gave the offensively challenged Giants a 4-0 lead behind their talented rookie Bumgarner. McDonald finished the night allowing 11 baserunners in his five innings.

Starting the bottom of the sixth, NL batting average leader Rafael Furcal moved into fifth place on the team in homers with his seventh of the season. Jamey Carroll singled, and two outs later, James Loney walked, sending the tying run to the plate and Bumgarner to the dugout. But the Dodgers didn’t tie the game, settling for a gift run thanks to a wild pitch by Guillermo Mota and a fielder’s choice grounder by Matt Kemp (3 for 4) on which Carroll was ruled (incorrectly, it appeared) to have touched home before Loney was tagged out.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers got another look at the game when two-out walks to Garret Anderson and Carroll sandwiched a Furcal single. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt came in to pitch to Ethier, who hasn’t done a whole lot with them all year. Ethier grounded to first.

San Francisco got an eighth-inning insurance run on what might have been another umpire mistake, a bases-loaded sacrifice fly on which other baserunners might have passed each other.

One more chance came for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth when Russell Martin and Furcal each got their third hits of the night, putting two runners on and the tying run at the plate with one out. Blake DeWitt struck out after taking a close 2-0 pitch for a strike.

That brought up Ethier, and it had been, what, a couple months since his most recent waving of walkoff magic. Giants closer Brian Wilson pitched carefully, walking Ethier to load the bases. But Wilson then struck out his sometimes-nemesis Casey Blake on three pitches.

There was no Rockford in Mudville tonight.

McDonald’s turn in the rotation comes next Saturday afternoon against the Mets. He, Carlos Monasterios (two shutout innings tonight) or John Ely are all candidates to take the turn.

Jul 18

Defeated

One of the constant refrains I hear this year, whether it’s tied in with the McCourt debacle or the 22 years since the last World Series title or whatever, is that Dodger fans deserve better. And I get that, I totally do.

I just come at things from a different place. I don’t feel like I deserve better with the Dodgers. Big media market, big tradition, big talent base – I don’t care. That doesn’t matter to me.

As someone who was never anything but a Dodger fan, I was born on third base, as they say – but I don’t think I hit a triple. I think I got lucky. I was born into Jackie Robinson’s franchise. I was born with Vin Scully as my broadcaster. The Yankees, the Red Sox – I don’t care. I can’t imagine a better team to root for than Jackie and Vin’s team.

A game like today’s, and I don’t feel cheated. I feel, that makes sense. The McCourts, the bullpen collapses – they’re plot points in a drama that otherwise would be very nice but very sterile. Very tidy. Life isn’t tidy. That’s why it makes sense.

I’m not saying that’s right. I totally get why other people feel differently.

And it doesn’t mean I don’t feel disappointment. God, do I.

I just really don’t feel I’m owed anything. And it could be another 50 years without a World Series title (it really well could be), and I don’t think that will change. Some of you feel you’re owed, and that’s fine. I don’t feel it. I feel we’ve been given gifts, and expecting, demanding more is nonsensical.

I won’t stop being disappointed if there’s nothing under the tree this year, but I don’t blame Santa for passing us by.

And then there’s this.

I’m not going to defend Jonathan Broxton today. From what I saw, he should have pitched better.

But this. People look at what he does and then they say he doesn’t have a killer instinct or a heart or a brain or whatever other option “The Wizard of Oz” offers. They say it about Chad Billingsley, or Matt Kemp. They’ve said it about guys long gone, and they’ll say it about guys yet to come. And maybe they’re right. I don’t think they’re right – this ultimate judgment that boils down to “all winners have heart, all losers lack heart” – but maybe they’re right.

I think part of the reason I get so bothered is that when they say those things, I feel they might as well be saying it about me. Because I am no different than Broxton, Billingsley or Kemp. I have my good points and my bad points. And in particular, in my life, I have been lacking in grace under pressure. Rising to the occasion is not so easy for me.

It’s my hope that my family, friends and colleagues see the good that I do alongside my failings. Because if I’m judged only on my failings, I’m done for.

I think people are spoiled. But I’m spoiled, too. Just in different ways. So who am I to criticize?

In fact, I don’t even like this ending, but I don’t have the heart or the backbone to change it. So there you go.

Jul 15

Second half starts same as the first

A six-run loss to kick off the second half for the Dodgers tonight, 7-1, mimics the six-run loss that started the first half. And Clayton Kershaw, who failed to get out of the fifth inning in his first start of the first half, had the same problem in tonight’s second-half opener.

In fact, for the first time in his LXX-start career, Kershaw struck out only one batter.

Andre Ethier’s home run was all that saved the Dodgers from a shutout.

Pitcher-in-limbo George Sherrill faced three batters and retired two.

Jul 13

Count it for Broxton and the NL: 3-1


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJonathan Broxton and Brian McCann shake on it.

Coast to coast, Jonathan Broxton naysayers revved their engines as he came out to save for the National League against the American League in tonight’s All-Star game.

And coast to coast Broxton silenced them, at least until the fall.

Whether Broxton truly stripped away any of the cynics’ ammunition in preserving the NL’s 3-1 victory – the NL’s first victory since 1996 – is doubtful. If the Dodgers are fortunate enough to play in October, the doubters will surely return, because past success has never slowed the cynics before.

But considering the alternative, Team Broxton will take it.

“It felt awesome,” a smiling Broxton told Fox’s Eric Karros after the game.

Employed as closer by the manager who profited from Broxton’s twin NLCS disappointments, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel, Broxton raised the stakes with his first pitch, lined to right field by David Ortiz. That brought up former Dodger Adrian Beltre, in his first All-Star game. Broxton blew Beltre away on three fastballs between 97 and 99 miles per hour.

Broxton then started John Buck off with three balls that missed, followed by two fastballs for strikes. Buck hit the next pitch as a blooper to right, and it looked like the NL would be victimized by their maligned outfield defense. But Marlon Byrd fielded the ball on a bounce and quickly and alertly fired to Rafael Furcal covering second base for a 9-6 forceout – a huge play that wiped out what would have been an unlucky hit.

Ian Kinsler then hit a high fly to center field, which Chris Young of Arizona gloved for the final out. And Broxton could wear the All-Star S across his big chest.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Hong-Chih Kuo

Short of a blown save for Broxton, a Kuworst-case scenario seemed to be ripening for Dodger fans midgame, when Hong-Chih Kuo walked the leadoff American League batter in the fifth inning, made a throwing error that put runners at first and third and then surrendered a deep sacrifice fly that scored the game’s first run.

But Brian McCann provided the relief (if sadly reminding us that we used to think Russell Martin was a better-hitting catcher not too long ago) with a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning, taking Kuo off the hook.

McCann also relieved himself, if you will, from an earlier disappointment. In the top of the fifth, Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier (1 for 2) had a chance to be a hero when he lined a single to right field with David Wright on second base. But the ball was hit too hard for Wright to be sent home. Corey Hart struck out, and McCann then flied out to strand the two runners.

Kuo faced four batters and retired two, throwing 18 pitches. Furcal walked in his only plate appearance, before getting in position to complete the key play of the game in the ninth.

Jul 10

John Ely tells us the oldest tale in the book

The story was that John Ely not only came up challenging hitters, but that he convinced the tentative Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw to do the same. Ely the golden child, Ely the student as master.

It’s all so simple, right? Just throw strikes.

Maybe Ely gave his two teammates something to think about. Maybe. But the real story is that throwing strikes isn’t a matter of simply choosing to do so.

Pitchers don’t will themselves to have command. Command comes from something far more nebulous, a combination of ability, mechanics, faith and fortune. And if just one piece of that puzzle is missing, the whole thing falls apart.

No one issues a four-pitch walk to start the second inning because they think it’s a good idea. It happens because pitching is hard. Just because you can throw strikes one day doesn’t mean you’ll throw them the next.

Ely seemed like he might have a preternatural or even supernatural ability to harness those mysterious forces. Now, we find he’s just like everyone else – except that, as we knew before, he has a thinner margin for error than everyone else.

Ely might bounce back. We’ll see. We’ll hope. If he isn’t as good as he was at the outset of his career, he’s not as bad as he was today.

But just remember this the next time you see a pitcher struggle with control. Don’t be that guy that asks, “How could he walk the pitcher?” Don’t be the one asking, “Why doesn’t he just throw strikes?” Don’t be that person. Because if you’ve ever watched baseball, you know the answer.

Pitching is hard.

Jul 09

Between a laugher and a tear: Dodgers hold on, 9-7


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireRussell Martin goes boom, finally.

Well, it’s really starting to get interesting now. It might not happen this quickly, but there is the possibility that when baseball takes its midsummer break, there will be a three-way tie for first place in the National League West between Los Angeles, Colorado and San Diego.

Nothing’s decided in July, but certainly the Dodgers are happy (and relieved) to gain another game on the Padres with a 9-7 victory tonight over the Cubs. Los Angeles also kept pace with the charging Rockies, who rallied from a large and late deficit for the third night in a row, this time defeating San Diego, 10-8. Colorado has won five straight, and both the Dodgers and Rockies are two games back of San Diego with two games left before All-Star time.

After the Dodgers fell behind 1-0 in the second inning, Russell Martin hit his first home run in 60 days – a smash with two men aboard in the bottom of the second – to give the Dodgers the lead they would keep for the rest of the night. I had hoped it would be the kickoff to a long overdue laugher of a night for Martin, but he was retired in his next three plate appearances. After getting two hits June 29, Martin has had exactly one hit in each of his past eight games.

In any case, the Dodgers had a few nice chuckles of their own tonight, leading 9-3 after six innings (with Andre Ethier and James Loney each reaching base three times), but Jonathan Broxton once again found his way into the game after the Cubs (along with George Sherrill and Justin Miller) made Dodger manager Joe Torre sweat.

It was a down-and-up night for Chad Billingsley, who allowed seven baserunners in the second and third innings but kept the damage to a run in each. Billingsley then allowed only two more hits and a walk before being pulled following a leadoff single in the eighth inning. (Torre, who is becoming a regular Agatha Christie the way he is authoring such mysterious use of his pitching staff, had Billingsley start the eighth with 115 pitches already thrown in the game, a move that perplexed everyone from me to Vin Scully.) For those who keep track of such things, Torre’s decision cost Billingsley one of them so-called quality starts by letting a fourth run be charged to him, that run coming home on an 0-2 wild pitch by Miller after Sherrill gave up a double. Another run followed, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to four and meaning that the one pitch Sherrill threw boosted his ERA from 6.86 to 7.32.

Miller had a chance to close out the game in the ninth, but was pulled for Broxton after allowing a leadoff single in the ninth. Aramis Ramirez tripled in the Cubs’ sixth run when Ethier flailed in a diving attempt to make a catch he should have made, and then Marlon Byrd’s seventh hit in two nights added the seventh run. Tyler Colvin batted as the tying run, echoes of the Dodgers’ collapse against the Yankees in June in everyone’s mind. But Colvin struck out, the Cubs’ 26th strikeout against the Dodgers in two games.

Scully summed up: “The Dodgers stagger, but hold on to win.”

I think it’s safe to say that by next week, this Dodger middle relief will not stand. Changes must be coming.

* * *

Seattle asked the Dodgers for Billingsley or Loney in a trade for Cliff Lee, according to an anonymous source in this story by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The Dodgers offered several minor leaguers, the source said, but wouldn’t give in on the major-leaguers.

* * *

Three days after returning from a long stay on the disabled list, John Lindsey doubled and homered three times for Albuquerque in a doubleheader today. Ramon Troncoso gave up a game-winning home run in his second appearance since being sent to the Isotopes. (The winning pitcher in that game? Matt Herges.)

Jul 08

The magnificent heaven: Samurai Kershaw, Furcal shine in 3-2 victory


Mark J. Terrill/APClayton Kershaw has walked eight batters in his past 41 2/3 innings, two in his past 20 2/3.

Boo hoo! Dodger pitchers never pitch complete games!  Waaah!  Why can’t they ever go the distance?  When is Clayton Kershaw going to step up and be an ace!  Waaaaaaaaah!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system …

Magnificent.

That’s the word to describe Clayton Kershaw tonight. Eight innings, two runs, 12 strikeouts, 97 pitches, no walks

And then, Dodger manager Joe Torre, who has had no trouble letting the precious 22-year-old phenom throw over 100 pitches in fewer innings, decided to pull Kershaw before potentially recording his first complete game in the majors. And it wasn’t necessarily the wrong decision – Jonathan Broxton is warming up no matter what, and no doubt fresher at this point of the game – but wow …

Anyway, Broxton came in, retired the first two batters in the ninth, got two strikes on the third before allowing a single, then made sure none of us would spontaneously combust by inducing a harmless fly out from Kosuke Fukudome to complete the Dodgers’ 3-2 victory over Chicago.

Remember this post, after Kershaw was charged with seven runs in 1 1/3 innings against Milwaukee?

The last time Clayton Kershaw started but failed to get past the third inning – June 10, 2009 – this is what happened the rest of the season: 107 innings, 122 baserunners, 123 strikeouts, 1.77 ERA.

Well, this is what Kershaw has done since failing to get past the second inning on May 4, 2010: 81 2/3 innings, 85 baserunners, 92 strikeouts, 2.20 ERA.

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Rafael Furcal puts the Dodgers in the lead.

Magnificent.

And yet this could have been an incredibly frustrating 2-1 loss for the Dodgers, were it not for the heroics of Rafael Furcal. Two innings after Matt Kemp just missed hitting a three-run home run, Russell Martin led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. One out later, Kershaw sacrificed him to second base, and then Furcal curled a game-changing home run just inside the right-field foul pole. Furcal ended the night a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Kershaw, who now has a lower WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and higher K/9 than Tim Lincecum wasn’t perfect. He forfeited the Dodgers’ 1-0 first-inning lead, allowing a long home run to Alfonso Soriano in the second and a pair of hits for a run in the fourth.

He wasn’t perfect. He was just … you know.